I could be mistaken about this, but there’s a point in this really fine Six Organs Of Admittance show when Ben Chasny and his new foil, Elisa Ambrogio, appear to be whispering sweet nothings to each other. Then the hushed, gentle duet becomes clearer. “They may even eat the horse that you’re riding,” they’re singing.
As far as I know, I think this is a new song from the next Six Organs album due in November. On this evidence, it’s going to be quite a departure. Chasny is too much of an adventurer and shit-stirrer to stick with the acid-folk formula which he’d perfected before most people had woken up to it. Tonight’s support act, Hush Arbors, actually do a pretty good job of sounding like Chasny circa “Dust And Chimes” or “Dark Noontide”, though they’re also capable of some billowing white noise + effete melody hybrids like the one they close with.
Six Organs, though, are moving on. Chasny’s incantatory singing has got stronger and while he’s still playing elaborate, opulent tunes, like an electrified Bert Jansch at times, it’s the way he intersects with Ambrogio that’s so radical and thrilling. Ambrogio’s performance fronting The Magik Markers on their new “Boss” album (reviewed here) has been exciting us here in the office for the past few weeks.
As half of the reconfigured Six Organs, she quietly harmonises with Chasny, then, while he carves labyrinthine folkish figures on his guitar, she lets fly these quite astonishing no-wave solos: great sustained clangs and skronks, punctuated by cavernous silences, that are at once free and fiercely controlled.
It makes for quite a spectacle, not least because Ambrogio rocks out in such an intense and passionate way. Headbanging in slow motion, shredding her strings one by one, she acts as a magnetic force, drawing Chasny towards her into a series of erotic guitar duels, until they’re facing off against each other, rocking backwards and forwards in perfect sync, finding a cacophonous and beautiful common ground in their playing.
The whole thing is very charged and I’m struggling to think of anything I can adequately compare it with. I suppose Sonic Youth have hit this sort of vibe occasionally, but it’s the intimacy of the pair which is so striking, the sense that you’re watching something very private but also something which has a keen understanding of primal rock theatre.
For an encore, they make a brackish avant-blues jam out of, of all things, Fleetwood Mac‘s “That’s Alright”, wryly positing themselves as the New Weird America’s Buckingham and Nicks. Cute, and awesome.